Composed by


Ron Goodwin was born in Devonport, Plymouth on 17 February 1925, the younger son of James Goodwin (d 1952), a Metropolitan Police constable engaged in security work at the naval dockyard, and his wife Bessie Violet, née Godsland (d 1966). Ron Goodwin learned to play the piano from the age of five. When he was nine the family returned to London, and at Willesden County Grammar School he took up the trumpet and joined the school band.

When War broke out, the family moved to Harrow, and Ron transferred to Pinner County Grammar School, where he formed his own band, The Woodchoppers. In 1943, after a brief spell as an insurance clerk, he joined the arranging department of music publisher Campbell, Connelly & Co. There he received invaluable help from arranger Harry G. Stafford, and he also took private conducting lessons from Siegfried de Chabot, a professor at the Guildhall School of Music. He subsequently worked as an arranger for Paramor-Gold Orchestral Services and played trumpet for Harry Gold and His Pieces of Eight. In 1945 he became head of the arranging department at Bron Associated Publishers, and very soon he was arranging for bands of the day including those of Ted Heath and Geraldo and the BBC Dance Orchestra.

From 1949 Ron Goodwin conducted for the Polygon company, arranging and conducting recordings of Petula Clark and Jimmy Young, including the latter’s 1951 UK no 1 hit ‘Too Young’. He then began an association with George Martin of Parlophone Records, which from 1953 saw him arranging and conducting more than 300 recordings for over fifty artists, including Peter Sellers in the series of three LPs that culminated in 1960 in ‘Peter and Sophia’ and its hit single ‘Goodness, Gracious Me!’. He simultaneously made his own series of recordings and broadcasts as Ron Goodwin and his Concert Orchestra, and in addition began to compose scores for documentary films at Merton Park Studios.

In 1958 Ron Goodwin wrote his first feature film score for Whirlpool, with screenplay by Lawrence P. Bachmann. After Bachmann became executive producer at MGM British Studios in 1959, Ron composed and conducted the music for most of its productions, as well as working for other film studios. Especially successful was his music for Murder She Said (1961) and for other films featuring Margaret Rutherford as Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple. However, he really made his name with the wider public with the film 633 Squadron, producing an ingenious main theme featuring six fast beats and three slow beats.

Music for Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965) cemented Ron Goodwin’s high public profile, as did that for Battle of Britain (1969), commissioned to replace music composed by Sir William Walton that the studio deemed unsuitable. Others of over sixty feature films to use his music included The Trap (1966), which featured Oliver Reed and had a theme that became widely familiar through television coverage of the London marathon. Ron also composed the scores for Where Eagles Dare (1969), Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy (1972) and Force Ten from Navarone (1978) and comedies starring Morecambe and Wise, Charlie Drake and Norman Wisdom

Meanwhile Ron Goodwin’s highly successful LP albums on the Studio Two label, models of good taste in their integration of elements of jazz and swing into the classical orchestral format, earned him a gold disc to mark the sale of a million albums. In 1970 he first appeared as guest conductor of leading orchestras, with a repertory combining current popular music and film themes and with his own linking anecdotes. These concerts proved hugely popular, leading to invitations to conduct across the world.

Ron appeared as guest conductor with many symphony orchestras at home and abroad including the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Hallé Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Ulster Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Australian Pops Orchestra, Danish Radio Orchestra and the BBC Concert Orchestra. Ron was guest conductor at the Royal Academy of Music's Festival of British and American Film Music in June 1996.

Ron recorded internationally and has gold and platinum discs awarded by EMI.

Ron Goodwin’s more extended compositions included his Drake 400 Suite (1980) and Armada Suite (1988), both commissioned by his native Plymouth. His New Zealand Suite (1983) marked a long association with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, which earned him a platinum disc from EMI New Zealand to mark two million sales of the album ‘Going Places’. Goodwin earned three Ivor Novello Awards, including a lifetime achievement award, and was a Fellow of the City of Leeds College of Music and a Freeman of the City of London.

Ron was a musical perfectionist who had a fine rapport with his fellow artists. He was recognized as a kind, caring man, with a wonderful sense of humour. He was a keen worker with young people, being much involved with the Hampshire County Youth Orchestra, Worthing Youth Orchestra, City of Leeds College of Music and the City of Birmingham Schools’ Concert Orchestra.

For many years he conducted a series of light-hearted Christmas shows with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, In December 2002 he completed his 32nd consecutive year of these Christmas concerts in packed venues across the South of England. Ron died peacefully at his home at Brimpton Common, Berkshire, on 8 January 2003, aged 77.

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